Shorty UDS - Mini Ugly Drum Smoker BBQ from 55 Barrel

Shorty Misc Projects >> Article By Shorty


diy ugly drum smoker uds barrel

Been using the little kettle smoker so much, that I decided I really did need a much bigger smoker so I could do more meat at one time. Reading about regular side smokers, they seem to eat tons of fuel. I think the reason is because they have a lot of surface area to heat up, and they all seem to leak air though the doors, so more air flow goes through. Plus they need a lot of babysitting, making sure the temperature stays in the range you want.

UDS smokers have a big reputation for being able to load up the fire box with lots of fuel and then do a long smoke, and having the temp stay right on target without having to futs with the vents very much. I belive this because my kettle works the same way, after you get it adjusted right, it will hold the temp right on for a long time. The only thing about regular UDS smokers is they go through a lot more fuel than my kettle does. My guess is because they have a lot more volume to heat up, and since the meat is only at the top of the barrel, I think a shorter barrel could do the same cooking with less fuel. Besides, since my nickname is Shorty, you just know I had to build a Shorty version of the UDS. :)

I started off with a used barrel that has the removable lid, it used to have honey in it.

making mini uds smoker


I cut the bottom off and then trimmed it really close to the bottom.

weld section uds smoker bbq


I welded the bottom onto the line where I cut the top section off. Nice how the barrels have that flare area, the bottom fits right in there.


air intake exhaust uds smoker bbq


This is my intake. On the other side, I welded an exhaust up near the top.

Both of them use 2" pipe, that is the biggest I had laying around. It is just about the right size. If I would have used a smaller diameter pipe, I would not be able to flow enough air through.

burn out inside of uds smoker bbq


I added a few other parts then did a burn out. Some build a huge fire inside their barrel, but I used a propane weed torch to burn out the liner and other paint or whatever that was inside the barrel. Boy it works great! Just point, spray, and watch the stuff burn off!

scrub inside uds smoker bbq


After it cooled, I washed the inside with water, simple green and a scrubby pad. There was some powdery residue left over, but it was easy to remove with the scrubby pad. You can see to the right of the sponge is where I already wiped, and the left is what I still had to do.

Just light scrubbing mind you, not very hard to remove.

Cleaned inside and out, and rinsed very well, dried off with a towel, then left in the sun to dry more.

paint outside uds drum smoker bbq


I had some cans of regular spray paint and coated the outside with gloss black. There is some high temperature paint available, but I read many UDS builders use just regular spray paint, which is supposed to hold up to 500 degress. The high temp paint is rated to 1200. Another option is to powder coat, which would be even higher.

season inside drum uds smoker bbq

For the inside, I coated (seasoned) with cooking oil.

weld hook onto lid uds smoker bbq drum

I welded a hook onto the inside of the lid so I can hang it off the back when digging the meat out.

On the right you can see my intake vent, just a simple flap of metal, but I have a spring on the bolt to hold it with tension.

On the left, you can see my reverse flow pipe that I added to the inside. It slips out incase I don't want the reverse flow, or I can rotate it so it pulls from higher above the grill.

uds smoker bbq

And there she is.

input damper uds drum smoker

Here is a better look at my input damper. The spring on the bolt works really well, it provides friction but is still loose enough that I can slide the cover easily.

extend exhaust chimney uds smoker At first, I thought I could get away without a chimney exhaust. It didn't work very well, the heat would not flow through the UDS properly. So I added a 22" chimney and it seems just right. The heat starts to rise in the exhaust pipe, and as it does that, it creates a suction to pull air through the UDS from the intake.

I am partially finished with my stand. The green bucket underneath has charcoal in it, and the rectanguar area between the green bucket and the UDS is where I am going to put a drawer for my wood.

intake and exhaust uds smoker bbq

I have seen a lot of people say that you should never close your exhaust damper. I tried that for a while, but it would limit me to not being able to drop the temperature below 200. Since I added the exhaust damper and started futzing with it, I can partically close it which really slow down the air flow, so I can have controllable temperatures even as low as 120.

And yes, the hype is true, after you figure out how to set your dampers on your UDS, they can run for many hours and it will hold the temperature without much further adjustment. I often see less than 10 degrees difference over 5 hours of running. If I open up the lid to check on the meat or add some more charcoal, it will get back to the proper temp in about 10 minutes.

uds smoker grill bbq barrel charcoal use

At the point of this photo, I have been using this for about 6 months. You can see that the regular spray paint seems to be holding up just fine.

My smoking day is targeting Saturday night's dinner, I usually run a blended load, I have a riser grid that I cook the potatos on. I try to cook about twice as much potatos as we will eat, so I have leftovers to make a Texas pan scramble for Sunday morning breakfast. (a "Texas Pan Scramble" is pan fried potatos, pan scrambled eggs so they are white and yellow, and whatever refrigerator lint is lingering around). Underneath the riser are some ribs -- I only have a few in there this time but that is where I cook them. And closest to the fire I have some steak and chicken.

I don't cook them all for the same amount of time, my older daughter and I are the rib eaters. They take longer, and we like them with a lot more smoke than everyone else in the family so I run a lot of wood in with the charcoal when I start the ribs. A few hours later and the potatos are ready to go in. Then finally the steak and chicken get their turn.

For charcoal consumption, one basket (which holds about 2 lbs of charcoal) will last about 5 hours at 220. At $0.35 per lb, that is only 70 cents worth of charcoal I am burning up. It does consume a little more than what my Weber kettle smoker bbq, but is still far less than a typical offset side smoker or conventional full size UDS. I think it is partially because this smoker seals so much better than a side smoker, so I can better control the amount of air flow through and thus reduce the amount of combustion. Plus the fact that it is a smaller area that I have to heat. A full size UDS will have 3 times as much air space inside that gets heated.